One thread in the regular conversations in which we struggle to define the user research field (is it ethnography? what makes it ethnography? What do we call it? Who does it? Etc.) is the issue of “theory.” Many people involved in this work have an extensive theoretical background. Many others do not.
Personally, I’ve grappled with the discussion of theory. What’s an example from our work? What is relevant theory? What are ways to get more of it?
On the hunch that I’m not alone in that confusion, or that interest exists in similar forms among others, I propose the creation of a “study group.” I want it to be more than a reading list distributed to individuals - I’d like to see discussion, sharing, questioning, exploring, interpretation. I’d like it to be open to folks at all levels, to bring us all up together in our knowledge.
I don’t know what form that study group should take - an email list, a wiki, regular Skype calls? To that end, and because we all love meta (!!!) I’ve created a planning group on Google for those that are interested in planning and/or participating to try to discuss a format that might make sense or have an impact.
Homepage: http://groups.google.com/group/theory-plan (just go here and click “join this group”)
Group email: email@example.com
Description: A planning group for those interested in learning more about the theoretical aspects of user research (or, call it ethnography, or contextual research, or design research, if you prefer). This group is not for the study of theory per se, but to plan the creation of a study group.
It may result that the email list itself is the place to have the discussion, but it may not, so I’m framing this as a PLANNING group for the time being.
I hope others are interested in figuring this out (at the very least, we’ll want to articulate the goals more clearly than I have so far) - those who want to learn theory, those who want to help plan a study group, those who have theory to share, and others